Evaluating the State of Creationism: Creationist Finances

Evaluating the state of creationism in the evangelical church today is a difficult task.  Gallop polls suggest little changes among Americans regarding their views of origins but the generic nature of the questions make these results challenging to interpret.   I have looked at web site traffic, publication records and other metrics of the reach and success of various creationist and apologetic organizations in the past (Creation science organizations: past present and futureCreation on the Internet: where do we go to learn about originsState of Creation as Viewed by Google Trends).    The themes that these past analyses have generated are: 1) Answers in Genesis continues to be the 10 ton gorilla among creationist organizations by any metric and 2) interest in young earth creationism* is no longer in growth phase but has reached its peak and may even have seen declines in the past couple of years.

Today I want to take another look at creationists organizations, but this time I want to compare them to the size and scope of other apologetic related ministries.  To do so I have obtained IRS 990 Forms for the 2010/2011 reporting period for many organizations and have pulled some comparative data to share. I have also looked at the same forms from 2004 through 2010 for Answers in Genesis in particular.  I have obtained all of these report from the Foundation Center where you can do a 990 form search HERE on your favorite organization.   I should say that I am no expert at reading tax forms. They are very confusing to me in times and it is clear that all of the numbers I will present are non necessarily apples to apples comparisons even thought I am taking them from the same line item on the  Form 990.   The data are all publicly available and to make it easier for you to examine them yourself I have put all the records that I will be using in downloadable files.  Just click on the name of the organization to get a PDF of the their most recent available Form 990.

Institute for Creation Research (ICR)  – Dr. Henry Morris III
Answers in Genesis (AIG) – Ken Ham
Creation Ministries International (CMI) – Gary Bates
Creation Science Evangelism (CSE) – Eric Hovind
Desiring God (DG) – John Piper
Ligonier Ministries (LM) – Christopher Larson and Dr. R.C. Sproul
Trinity Broadcasting Network  (TBN) – includes Holy Land Experience in Orlando FL

The chart below shows some bottom-line numbers I gleaned from the Form 990 of these organizations:

Summary of Creation Science Financial numbers for 2010/2011

Summary of reported numbers from the 2010 to 2011 year reporting period for several creationist and other apologetic organizations.  See above for the acronym definitions. If you are having trouble reading the number click to enlarge.

Answers in Genesis dominates the creation science scene:
Even compared to many high-profile teaching organizations focused on apologetics AIG would seem to have as big or a bigger audience/reach.  ICR has sizable contributions each year but we have seen in the past that their web presence, books and magazine sales and conference audiences don’t compare to AIGs.  CMI is the result of the AIG split in the middle 2000s.   In many ways the split was fairly even in terms of people but the resources were not at all evenly split since the it was the US-based AIG that retained the main assets including most of the publishing arm for books and magazines.   Interestingly, CMI retained most of the “thinkers” of the group in the sense that the ones that actually did some form of science and had degrees ended up on the side of CMI. But having the people who did much of the ground work doesn’t appear to have made much difference for CMI as AIG had the face, Ken Ham, and has become an apologetics ministry now rather than a generator of new data and ideas. They use the information of others and package it for the masses and they have done a very good job at this.

The difference in contributions (17.1 million) and total revenue (19.3 million) for AIG is due to 5.1  million in receipts (282,000 visitors which my calculator tells me paid an average of $18 person to visit)  from the Creation Museum, 6.2 million in revenue from books, videos, CDs etc. and $204,073 in revenue from seminars conferences and other outreach events.   Interestingly, they report expenses for the Creation Museum at 8.4 million, resource distribution (book etc) at 4.3 million and ministry outreach (conferences etc..) at 1.6  million.  So only their publishing unit is self-sustaining at this point with the Creation Museum costing 3.3 million more than it brought in last year.  Of course a non-profit organization is, not-surprisingly, going to be very dependent on donations but AIG has a very high amount of fixed-expenses because of its physical operation and this is despite a very reasonable salary structure (see below).

So we can see that despite their dominance AIG isn’t without its financial challenges. The Creation Museum accounts for much of their total current assets. Remember the Creation Museum was built debt-free because it was paid for by contributions and so that gives them a lot of equity on their balance sheet.  From 2004 through 2008 AIG saw contributions of 7.7, 9.7, 13.1, 9.6 and 8.2 million dollars in contributions to AIG.  2006 and 2007 marked the finishing and opening of the Creation Museum.  Since that time contributions have been declining.  Despite the announcement of the great Ark Encounter them park in 2010 donations do not seem to have risen.   There has been a lot of public speculation about the health of the later endeavor and it will be interesting to see the 2012 Form 990 because it should tell us a lot about whether Ken Ham has been able to get his followers to increase their giving enough to make this project sustainable. It appears to me that he will likely need that number to go back up to the 10-13 million range for multiple years for there to be any chance of his Ark being built.   Given that revenues from the Creation Museum have certainly fallen in the past three years this makes the hill to climb to raise funds even greater. 2011 saw the lowest amount of donations since at least 2003 at almost half of what it as in 2006.   A million dollar drop over last year is a significant amount when they are both planning a new park and adding an expensive addition (the zipline) to the current Creation Museum grounds and is especially troubling when you consider that revenue from the Creation Museum will certainly be down this year as well.

Screenshot capture from a video of the new zipline at the Creation Museum. Credit WLIT.

Screenshot capture from a video of the new zipline at the Creation Museum. Credit WLWT.  Open the summer of 2013, it is hoped that these new attractions will bring people back to the museum again.  Repeat visitors are the only way that the Creation Museum can now sustain itself after its first few years.

Salaries of top executives vary wildly among organizations:
Some of this is probably due to access of other income sources outside of the non-profit organization.  However,  Paul Crouch and other family members that preside over TBN are far and away the salary leaders here with compensation packages of around 400K for both he and he wife with other members of the family brining in 200K+.   Ken Ham’s 197K compensation package seems downright reasonable for the size of organization and ICR and CMI presidents are making 130K and 71K respectively.  I can’t figure out the TBN numbers, they report only 800 thousand dollars  in salaries/compensation but then have a list of top organizational people ant their salaries which add up to at least 2 million per year and this would not even include all the employees running the network. I’m guess they are all contracted to work from third part or they are on a Form 990 in another state.

Creation evangelism is a significant contributor to the overall evangelistic outreach of Christians to the world:
I was mostly interested in reformed Christian organizations but I threw TBN in there as a large organization that represents much of modern evangelical Christendom today.  What really strikes me is how large AIG is compared to the well-known ministries of John Piper and R.C. Sproul (maybe it is just me but I found the difference in resources between Desiring God  and Ligonier Ministries was quite surprising).  When books, magazines, web presence etc.. are all factored in AIG has a similar footprint to Ligonier Ministries.  I think it could be argued that in terms of an individual face for much of Christianity in the USA today it would be hard not to put Ken Ham near the top of the list of personalities.   I think  it could also be argued that Ken Ham is more in the business of apologetics (arguing the case for Christianity) than he is in the business of promoting creation science these last few years.  I find this particularly troubling because he never had any scientific credentials but his Biblical credentials are even more shaky.  Here we have one of the most prominent spokespersons for Christianity who has no Biblical or scientific training.  I know of many lay Christians who are self-trained experts but in my opinion Ken Ham is not one of these as he continues to demonstrate his lack of training in both of these areas. That he should be the one that many are trusting for their defense of their faith should be very disconcerting to most Christians.

Some further evidence of the overall reach of AIG can be found in the written description to explain their entry for line 4D (Other program services) which includes the following:

Resource Distribution – (Magazines) – Answers magazine is a quarterly, creation-based worldview publication, primarily for distribution to subscribers in the USA and the United Kingdom, but also to a limited number of subscribers in other countries, including Canada, Australia, and other locations Answers Magazine continues to grow with a worldwide distribution of over 300,000 copies during the fiscal year ending June 30 , 2011 Ministry Outreach (Internet) – The Answers in Genesis website is used to provide creation resources to the general public During fiscal year 2011, 12 3 million visits were made to our websites resulting in over 32 million pageviews Answers in Genesis also had 9 8 million active users on Facebook Ministry Outreach (Missions) – The organization supports mission-related activities on the home and foreign fields by providing funds, resource materials, and speakers In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, we continued our emphasis on Worldwide translation projects and training Ministry Outreach (Radio) – A 90-second radio program, including a wide range of topics related to a literal interpretation of the Bible was broadcast daily on over 600 radio outlets worldwide

—————
* young earth creation is not the same as creation science. As far as I know all creation scientists are young earth creationists but young earth creationism I think most often defines all those that believe the world was created not very long ago though they may not support creation science proofs of that recent age.  Some YEC might also believe that the world was created to look old and thus the “science” of creation doesn’t point to a young earth.   Regardless, all versions of young earth creationism are represented in the YEC organizations and people contribute because they believe that these organizations are standing up against all other incorrect interpretations of scripture.

A new billboard advertising another new attraction at the Creation Museum.  Two years ago AIG spent more than 2 million dollars on advertising including a large billboard campaign.

A new billboard advertising another new attraction at the Creation Museum. Two years ago AIG spent more than 2 million dollars on advertising including a large billboard campaign.

Comments

  1. It would be interesting to see how the Discovery Institute rates on this scale.

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  2. Have you taken into account the recent separation of AiG into two organizations? Ken Ham has been recently criticizing others for not taking this into account.

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    • Tim, I hadn’t seen him say though nothing really surprises me from him these days. This is just an excuse. The CMI/AIG split occurred in 2005 with AIG taking the name and original group having to re-brand itself as CMI in 2006 I think. By the end of 2007 the split and lawsuits were over and CMI was in full operation. How did this effect AIGs fundraising? Not much at all when you consider that 2006 and 2007 where they best donations year BY FAR to the tune of 13 and 9.6 million. CMI in 2007 only had 154,532 in donations in 2007 and 252,414 in 2008. That is a drop in the bucket compared to AIG. ICR also did not experience much difference in this time. Remember that 2008 was the economic downturn and AIG and ICR both saw falling donations but for AIG much of the decline was probably due to the end of the huge push for funds for the Creation Museum. Ham is the big dog on the block and to shift the blame for his problems to others is a bit ridiculous.

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      • tkhelble says:

        Actually, I was referring to a more recent action where AiG spun off part of itself into a legally separate non-profit. In a recent blog post dated June 29, 2013 (“Can ‘Christianity Today’s Research Be Trusted?”), Ham was criticizing the magazine for stating that the Creation Museum’s revenues had declined. Here is the key sentence in that post: “In the public records, it could appear that 2011 was better than 2012, but that’s not true: we had just spun off a part of AiG into another non-profit, and figures for that new non-profit of ours are now in a separate public document.”

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        • Yeah, that’s right, I remember that article. That has to do with the way they are setting up the Noah’s Ark adventure park. That park is supposed to be run by a separate private entity rather than AIG like the Creation Museum. Presumably donations for the Ark park go to a different account rather than the AIG general fund and these wont’ be reported on future 990 forms but the 990 of the other non-profit. The last 990 I had only ran through July of 2011 and so there shouldn’t be much of a difference but the 2012 numbers may in fact be a bit different. I suppose that this past year they may have higher total donations if you add the two together but I wonder how many people will give to the Ark venture and not give to AIG. It will be interesting to see, also, I am not sure what happens if the Ark doesn’t’ get built. I doubt that all the money people thought they were specifically going to build the Ark will be given back to them. I expect there is fine print that the donations will go to the general fund which somehow would make its way back to AIG since there is a huge overlap in the non-profits.

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  3. YEC is a profitable business for some folks. That doesn’t change the fact that YEC is bad science and bad Bible interpretation.

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